Animation is a form of filmmaking that is often related to second-tier status, something just for kids. This is by both the organisations giving out the awards and also by the very guilds that are meant to be promoting their member’s work. However, they are not second-tier films, and in many ways, it is the animated films that are pushing the frontiers of filmmaking and what is possible, and they should be championed for the work that they do.
Animated films can be hand-drawn, stop/clay motion, computer-generated, it does not matter, but all of them show amazing techniques of hundreds of artists that bring the work to life.
So without further ado, these are the animated films that showed us the glory of animation in 2020. Be warned that there may be some slight spoilers ahead for the films in question. Also, click on the banners to go to the full reviews of each of the films
Well, it has been a long, and let’s call it, interesting year, but today brings to a close our last reviewed of a film from 2020. To round out the year, it is time to look at Pixar’s next entry, and given we already had a strong movie in Onward this year. I came into Soul with some reasonably high expectations.
So to set the scene, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a high school music teacher, but his real passion is performing jazz. This puts him in conflict with his mother Libba (Phylicia Rashad) who wants him to have a stable job. Well, those two worlds are about to collide when he is offered a full-time position teaching while also getting the chance to perform with the famous Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). This would be a big decision for Joe if he didn’t then fall through an open manhole and wake up on the escalator to the other side.
There has been a couple of attempts in recent times to do the ‘what if the fantasy realm that you know was set in modern times’ and well, on the whole, they have been bad. But as a concept, it is solid, so I have been wondering if anyone would be able to pull it off. Well if anyone can do it, it is Pixar, and boy did they.
So to set the scene, Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is just an average teenage elf, winning math awards, learning how to drive, avoiding his brother Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) and trying to find friends. He is trying to find his place in the world with his brother, who is a bit of a screw-up, and his mother Laurel Lightfoot (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who is trying her best with the chaos. On his 16th birthday, their mother surprises them with a gift from their late father Wilden Lightfoot (Kyle Bornheimer) which turns out to be a magic staff and a spell, one that can bring him back, but only for one day.
There is this common misconception that animated films are somehow an inferior form of cinema, especially those slated for a younger demographic. However, this is simply just not the case, and several animated films over the last few years have proved that point. This week we get to see another movie enter that frame with the follow up to The Croods.
So to set the scene, we begin with a tragedy as Guy’s (Ryan Reynolds) parents get caught in a tar pit and force Guy to move on without him hoping to return to a mystical place known as tomorrow. Fast forward and a lot of time marching he runs into the Crood Family, father Grug (Nicolas Cage), mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), daughter Eep (Emma Stone), son Thunk (Clark Duke), baby Sandy (Kailey Crawford), and grandma Gran (Cloris Leachman). They live a simple life of foraging for food and trying not to get eaten, but romance blossoms between Guy and Eep, much to Grug’s consignation. But everything changes when they find a big wall in the middle of the wilderness hiding mountains of food behind.
TL;DR – This is a strong entry into the Jurassic franchise leaning both into joy and terror of dinosaurs
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous Review –
It should go without saying, I love Dinosaurs. I have loved them since I was a kid, and I still love them today. So I take whatever chance to watch, which unfortunately is few and far between. Well, today is one of those few times when I get to sit back and enjoy the world where Brachiosaurus loom over treetops, and you need to be careful at what goes bump in the night. [Insert T-Rex Roar sound here]
So to set the scene, we open with two people running through the jungle trying to reach an extraction before Raptors take one of them out. The other person who we see their point of view tries to escape before being cornered by a T-Rex. That is the point where the VR goggles come of, and we are introduced to Darius (Paul-Mikél Williams). He is trying to beat this apparently unbeatable game to win a ticket to Jurassic World’s new Camp Cretaceous because it was always his and his late dad’s dream to go. Well while tossing and turning in bed, he is woken from a dream and finally it all clicks, and he becomes the first person in the world to beat the game. With this, he books his ticket to Camp Cretaceous where absolutely nothing will go wrong … right …?
When I was growing up in the 90s, there was not enough time in the morning to watch Cheez TV, so you would stick the tape into the VCR and just waited all day to see what was taped when you got home. One of those shows that I still think back fondly on was Digimon Digital Monsters. It was this tale of these young kids getting trapped in a digital world, but they were not alone because they made friends with the local Digimon. It had two solid seasons where we followed their stories, but after that, they did the animated equivalent of Skins and shifted the whole world up and along the way I just got lost. Well, today I get to go back in time and revisit an old past with the conclusion to that story started so long ago. Just before we dive in (because I know this is important to some people), I watched the dubbed movie for this review, not the subbed. Purely because this is the version I grew up on, so this was the version I was going to say goodbye to.
So to set the scene, years have passed since the series and other movies and the DigiDestined have grown up and are going about their lives. However, across the world, an Aurora has been dazzling the night sky from New York to Tokyo. There is nothing to fear … the government says … right up until a portal to the digital world opens and Parrotmon (Yoshihito Sasaki) bursts forth. Luckily Tai (Joshua Seth), Matt (Nicolas Roye), T.K. (Johnny Yong Bosch) and Kari (Tara Sands) along with their Digimon can send it back to the digital world. However, in its wake, DigiDestined around the world have begun falling into a coma, and no one knows who will be next. Now in this review, I do want to spend some time exploring some of the themes, but that will head us into spoiler town real quick. So I will start with some general impressions before delving in more in-depth.
TL;DR – A fun trip down memory lane, while learning a thing or two about the International Space Station.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
The Magic School Bus was one of those shows that I can’t help but think back fondly on. Like I can still remember an episode where they went inside a decaying log for some reason. So when a new episode of the show popped up in my feed, and one set in space no less, I had to check it out, and I got sent back in time and into the future all at once.
So to set the scene, we skip all the standard preamble and start with the Bus as a rocket blasting off into space. Ms Frizzle (Kate McKinnon) is taking the whole group up to the International Space Station. The astronauts are heading back to Earth, so the team is watching over the station until the next crew arrives the following day.
TL;DR – A love letter to the past and a beautiful story in its own right
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
It has been a long time since Star Trek ventured into the realm of animation, indeed, The Animated Series to this day fits awkwardly into the Star Trek universe thanks to the question marks as to its canonicity. But today Star Trek takes some steps back unto this uncharted frontier with a Short Trek full of joy and beauty.
So to set the scene, we open in on a documentary called The Tardigrade in Space as it explores the life of a humble tardigrade Ephraim flying through space looking for a place to lay her eggs. A place that is warm and safe, which is what she found right up until the moment the USS Enterprise appears out of warp and trashes the asteroid she had picked. But then a starship with a nice warm warp reactor would be the perfect place to lay her eggs, unfortunately, a DOT-7 maintenance droid called Dot has different ideas.
TL;DR – Its music, story, animation, worldbuilding, and characters that you really care for even though they are all broken in some way
A while back I took a moment to write about Why I loved Star Trek DS9 and since it was a great time of writing I have been meaning to get back at it again. I had a couple of choices but with the announcement that Netflix is producing a ten-episode live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop, well I got instantly dragged back in time to my high school days when the show rippled through my life with every beat of those conga drums, and well I instantly knew what to do next. Why Cowboy Bebop? Well, there are a lot of reasons, the music, story, animation, characters, but more than anything, it was the way it shaped how I viewed television and animation as a medium and got me more and more interested with how it is all made. It is also one of the go-to shows, as well as Samurai Champloo (サムライチャンプル), that I recommend whenever someone want to start exploring animation. So with that in mind let us dive into the neo-noir space-western from Shinichirō Watanabe (渡辺 信一郎) all about trying to escape the past and then realising that you can’t, and then also Ed, hello Ed.
In the Cowboy Bebop world, the human race has expanded out into the Solar System when the first Astral Gate (a faster than light transport system) exploded next to The Moon raining down Luna debris on Earth. The world had one choice escape or die on Earth and so they expanded out terraforming the Moons of Jupiter, Venus, creating the crater cities of Mars, and also Asteroid outposts across the Solar System like Tijuana (TJ). By 2071, because the human race is spread out across such a large region of space it has meant that enforcing law and order has become a challenge, so the powers at be implemented a bounty system and so Cowboys spread out chasing bounties and bringing back criminals to face justice … for a fee of course. This is where we meet our crew of the Bebop the ship they travel around the Solar System catching criminals while trying not to have to spend all its bounty on repairs.
TL;DR – Beautiful and yet also a bit melancholy. It takes what is a quite tired trope of cinema and breathes new life into it.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Last week I managed to catch a showing of a new anime film Weathering
With You. It was beautiful, bittersweet, visually stunning, and
emotionally resonate. Well after having such a profound experience with that
film I had a look back at director/writer Makoto Shinkai’s filmography and came
across Your Name. I had missed it
when it can out in cinemas, so I made sure to check it out as soon as I could.
Well one week later and what would you know, here it was live on the SBS Movie
channel here in Australia and boy was it worth the watch.
So to set the scene, Mitsuha Miyamizu (Mone Kamishiraishi) lives in a quiet
village in the mountains of Japan’s Hida region. Itomori is a town with a long
history of tradition but also of tragedy with fires destroying much of the town’s
history. Mitsuha is a Miko (shrine maiden) in the Shinto temple that her family
runs under the watchful hands of her grandmother Hitoha (Etsuko Ichihara).
Mitsuha is frustrated with her life and where it is going and dreams of leaving
her small town and moving to the big city in Tokyo. Well one day she gets her
wish, but when she wakes up in the body of Taki Tachibana (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) a
high school boy living in Tokyo, things don’t quite go the way she plans.